In this episode a British WWI fighter pilot lands at an American Air Force base in France. Only instead of it being 1917 it’s 1959. Flight Lt. Decker is of course immediately detained by the base military personnel and questioned. Major Wilson and General Harper interrogate Decker and he tells them this story. He was on a mission over France with his fellow pilot Alexander Mackaye when they were attacked by seven German planes. Decker escaped into a cloud and he assumed that Mackaye was shot down by the Germans. The two American officers completely disbelieve his story. They tell him not only is his story completely impossible but Alexander Mackaye not only hadn’t been killed in WW I but was in fact an Air Vice Marshall of the Royal Air Force and further was expected to arrive at that very base on that same day for a visit.
Decker is placed in a guarded room and visited by Major Wilson who wants to understand what exactly is going on. Meanwhile Decker is forming a new opinion as to what actually happened to him. He tells Wilson that he was a coward back in the war and that he had deserted Mackaye when the German planes had surrounded him. But hearing that Mackaye had survived and knowing that no one else could have saved him, Decker interpreted his own presence in the future as a second chance given to him to find the courage to save Mackaye. He reasons that hearing that Mackaye had been a great hero in the Second World War and having saved many men by his actions was meant to give Decker the reason and example he needed to redeem himself and save Mackaye.
Decker knocks out Wilson and when the guard hears the scuffle and opens the door Decker knocks him out too. He runs on the tarmac and finds his plane and overpowers another airman who tries to stop him. Finally, as he’s about to take off Major Wilson shows up and puts a pistol to his head and warns Decker to stop, he would shoot him. Decker says he’d rather die that way than live a coward. Wilson lets him go and Decker flies out of sight.
General Harper berates Major Wilson for his action in letting Decker escape but the reprimand is interrupted by the arrival of Air Vice Marshal Alexander Mackaye. When questioned by the Americans he states that Decker saved his life. He states that although initially it seemed Decker had fled the attack into a cloud later, he reappeared and managed to shoot down three German planes before he himself was shot down. They asked if his effects had been recovered and Mackaye replied in the negative. Upon showing Mackaye the effects that had been confiscated from Decker earlier in the day, including a photo identification card he confirmed that they were authentic.
Inexplicable time travel is a very regular feature of the Twilight Zone episodes. In fact, most of the time there isn’t any rationale for it at all. In this case it appears to be divine intervention to allow Lt. Decker the grace to summon up his courage. As fantasy it’s rather an overused device and not particularly original. But I actually enjoyed the story a great deal. It appeals to my sense of what I would like the universe to be, a place where our better angels have a say in things. Call me a rank sentimentalist if you like, I give it a B.